The student who calls me mom came to see me at her wit’s end. She just couldn’t bring herself to do her history project, she said. She didn’t feel like it, she’d already had a stressful day, but it was due soon and she knew she needed to work on it. Might I have any advice?

The best friend messaged me a few days ago, struggling to commit to the no-end-in-sight curriculum. She was interested, motivated even, but it’s hard to work on something new, to focus on mastering a new skill. Might I have any advice?

I told them both what I tell myself nearly every day: just start, for 30 minutes. Clear all focus on finishing, on progress, even on deadlines (real or imagined). Set a timer and work on it. The time may pass with you struggling, but the time is going to pass anyways. And more likely than not, the starting will help you do all the rest.

Perfectionists, those with anxiety, an obsession with deadlines, or a preoccupation with the future — I believe all can benefit from this small habit. When I was overwhelmed by a commitment to write a thirteen week series on James, when I was intimidated by a looming Bible study about a touchy topic, when I was preparing to speak for my school about communication, even when I needed to write a Worried Sapling post because all of my scheduled posts had run out… all of them got done by starting.

Often times, just to remind myself, I’ll even write it that way in my bullet journal. I don’t write “Work on posts” or “Complete 1-2 posts”; I write “start WS posts” or “start Week 2 for James.” Because if I started, I did it, and the rest becomes all the easier.

Maybe it’s just how my anxiety works, but the anticipation of anything is worse than anything itself. Best to get out of the land of “what if” and jump straight into “what is.” At the very least, the hypothetical suffering disappears as I get a clearer picture of what I’m working with. And the vast majority of the time, it’s not that bad at all.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash